Franklin D. Roosevelt

Letter on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Interstate Commerce Commission.

March 01, 1937

My dear Chairman Miller:

When one takes account of the good work done by the Interstate Commerce Commission since its creation fifty years ago, one smiles at the dire predictions made by certain obviously selfish interests when the law providing for the regulation of interstate commerce was enacted.

The president of a great Eastern railroad declared the law would depreciate the 'Western farm lands by one-half. On the Pacific Coast another magnate predicted a panic. This prophecy was re-echoed by another railroad president in the Middle West and, not to be outdone by his brother prophets, yet another great railroad executive foresaw the ruin of our foreign and domestic commerce.

Those were the opinions of holdovers from the old "public-be-damned" days-economic fossils which, like the poor, are always with us. Of course, none of these dire prophecies was fulfilled. On the contrary, the railroads and the country went forward to happier and more prosperous times.

The program for the semicentennial exercises of the commission is a full one, and its mere perusal shows its diversified usefulness in the fifty years during which it has been functioning. I want to congratulate the present members of the commission on, the performance of duties which have fallen to them in difficult times. With singular ability and foresight they have met the problems which have confronted them. Their opportunity for constructive service is as great today as when Grover Cleveland named the first Interstate Commerce Commission in the spring of 1887.

I am reliably informed that when the founding fathers created that social, economic and political system of government which they hoped would be a permanent charter of liberties, they were wholly ignorant of the terms "railroads" and "automobiles," for the very good reason that the first did not come into existence until half a century later, and the second were not manufactured until over a century later. The Interstate Commerce Commission is, indeed, fortunate that interpretations of our charter of liberties have allowed it to function during the past half century, through recognition of the fact that an obviously national need can be met only through obviously national action.

Honorable Carroll Miller,

Chairman, Interstate Commerce Commission,

Washington, D. C.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Letter on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Interstate Commerce Commission. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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